“Head Shot Happy Hour” Gets Serious about Answering Community Needs

Picture this. Members of the J. Mason Davis Leadership Society (JMDLS) recently gathered for an evening of networking and discussion about the vital work of United Way and YWCA Central Alabama. Then, in between conversation and hors d’oeuvres, members could pause for a professional photo session.

The event was called “Head Shot Happy Hour” and was held at Alcove Birmingham in the city’s Fourth Avenue Historic District. The services of photographer Brian Pride were enlisted to provide complimentary head shots.

As one of United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA’s) donor networks, JMDLS is composed of African American changemakers who are dedicated to positively impacting the community through a shared affinity for philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy.

“We thought the photo sessions would be a simple but meaningful gift to our members, who give so much of themselves to our organization,” said Victoria White, Individual Giving Officer at United Way. “Considering the busy lives of our members, it can be hard to prioritize something like keeping your head shots up to date.”

While the photos were a bonus, the focus of the evening was the work of our local YWCA. Senior staff members Cleola Callahan, Executive Director of Domestic Violence Services, and Monica Shields, Senior Director of Family and Community Empowerment spoke to the group about their organization’s mission and the critical role it plays in families’ lives.

YWCA Central Alabama, a United Way partner agency, seeks to eliminate racism and empower women who may be affected by domestic violence or homelessness — moving them toward stability through childcare, legal services, emergency shelter or permanent housing and a wide range of other services.

During the event, Shields explained that it often takes only one mishap to derail someone’s life. For example, she said that her own home flooded earlier this year, forcing her to find another place to stay for about 20 days while mold and mildew remediation was performed. Someone less fortunate might have been unable to recover, only to find themselves suddenly homeless.

“I was in a position that I could move some other place, but what if I had not been? I would have needed the type of services that the YWCA provides at its Family Resource Center, and maybe even through some other agency.”

-Monica Shields, Senior Director of Family and Community Empowerment at YWCA Central Alabama

Callahan stressed the importance of the range of vital services that YWCA provides to the women who come to them. Especially in cases of domestic violence, she said, the women may not have the financial ability to send their children to daycare or access alternative housing.

Rounding out the evening, Leroy Abrahams of Regions, who is this year’s UWCA Campaign Chair, said organizations such as the YWCA are exactly why it’s meaningful — and the most effective and efficient use of your dollars — to contribute to United Way.

“When you give to United Way, it’s not a matter of giving to a big agency and you don’t know where the money is going,” Abrahams said. “No. The money is going to very important places like the YWCA, where needs are being met.”

Additionally, Abrahams urged J. Mason Davis members to continue sharing United Way’s mission with others.

“Thank you for your commitment to United Way. I encourage you to continue to tell the story to everyone,” Abrahams said, “but tell the story in our community as well so that we all understand that everybody has a role. However much you contribute, there is an opportunity for everybody to participate.”

For more information about the J. Mason Davis Leadership Society, visit https://www.uwca.org/leadership-giving-societies/j-mason-davis-leadership-society.